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MDF: A Multipurpose Engineered Wood Product

MDF, short for Medium Density Fiberboard is a material crafted from wood fibres and resin. Through a process involving pressure and temperature these components are. Bonded together to form MDF. This versatile material finds application, in the production of furniture, home renovations and various DIY projects. Its popularity stems from its affordability, durability as its smooth surface that facilitates painting and finishing tasks.


Advantages of Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

  1. In general MDF is more budget friendly compared to plywood or solid wood.

  2. MDF maintains consistency throughout its structure eliminating any voids or splinters.

  3. Its smooth surface provides a canvas for painting.

  4. Cutting MDF with a router scroll saw, band saw or jigsaw is effortless and results in edges, without any splintering, burning or tearing out.

Drawbacks of MDF

  • Absorbs liquids easily resembling a sponge, which can cause swelling unless properly sealed.
  • It is quite heavy, in comparison to materials.
  • Unfortunately it cannot be stained due to its tendency to absorb the stain and lacks the natural wood grain appeal.
  • The composition of particles makes it less effective at holding screws 
  • Special precautions need to be taken while cutting and sanding MDF due to the presence of VOCs (such as formaldehyde) in order to avoid inhaling particles.

Overall it is impertinent that these factors should be taken into consideration when working with Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF).

Here are some tips, for working with MDF;

  • Avoid using a hammer; MDF is quite tough. If you try to nail it without drilling a hole the nails might bend. It's more practical to use a trim nailer to shoot nails into the surface of the MDF. Afterward you can use a putty knife to scrape off any bumps that form before filling the nail holes.
  • Keep it dry: MDF doesn't react well to water exposure. If it gets wet frequently or prolonged exposure to moisture can make it swell up to twice its thickness. Eventually crumble if consistently exposed to water or damp conditions. However there are moisture MDF products that can be used in places, like bathrooms and laundry rooms where humidity is present.
  • Use a solvent-based primer: MDF surfaces are smooth, but fuzzy at the edges, so they should be primed before painting to avoid the sandpaper effect. Most applications require that the edges be crimped with 100-weight paper and that the edges be sealed with a solvent-based (not water-based) primer. Once the primer has dried, it can be sanded with a 100-grit pad and wiped with a damp cloth before applying paint.
  • Protect your face: The MDF project creates a storm of fine powder, dust and sand that moves everywhere and everything, so try to defeat the MDF by cutting it. When working indoors, cover furniture, doors, and vents with plastic wrap. Wear a hard dust mask and eye protection.
  • Installing a new saw: MDF tends to dull sawdust faster than most wood or plywood so have extra sawdust on hand. 
  • Sand your edges: Cutting MDF keeps edges sharp and open, so you will need to sand all the cut edges, which you can usually do with a fine hull-grit sandpaper such as 150 grit

Remember these tips when working with MDF for results!

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